Lady Toppers picked to win C-USA, Lucas preseason player of the year

Jessica Lucas (1) and her teammates celebrate after they score a point during WKU’s 3-0 win over Belmont Tuesday, Sept. 2, 2014, in E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky. 

John Reecer

After winning consecutive Conference-USA championships during WKU’s first two seasons in the league, the Lady Topper volleyball team has been picked as the preseason favorite by the league’s 13 coaches to take home the championship again in 2016.

The Lady Toppers recorded a 32-4 overall record last season and a 15-1 C-USA record as they ended the season in the top-25 of the AVCA national rankings for the second time in school history. Their only conference loss came to the likes of Rice University.

The Lady Toppers ended last year’s campaign ranked at No. 22 in the AVCA Coaches Poll, and sported a top 20 RPI, finishing at No. 16 in the final NCAA rankings. WKU swept Pac-12 foe Arizona in their opening round match of the NCAA Tournament in Provo, Utah.

Junior setter Jessica Lucas, an AVCA All-American performer a year ago, was also named the league’s preseason player of the year while fellow All-American junior outside hitter Alyssa Cavanaugh joined Lucas on the 12-member preseason All-Conference team.

Lucas, a Seymour, Ind., native, led all of C-USA with 1,397 assists last season, good for 11.18 assists per set, also a league best. Cavanaugh led the Lady Toppers and ranked among the Top 10 in C-USA in kills with 400 total on the season.

The Lady Toppers’ 153 combined wins over the last five seasons are second-most nationally behind only Penn State and boast the fourth-best winning percentage in the nation over that same span.

Under Head Coach Travis Hudson, WKU has finished the regular season third or better every year since 2000, including 12 regular season championships in that 16-year time frame.

The University of Texas at San Antonio was picked to finished second in the league as Rice was tabbed to finish third.